This paper was presented at the International Bar Association Joint Meeting of Committees P and V, on October 4, 1989 in Strasbourg, France, by the author, George W. Adams.
“Industrial democracy” is often described as the raison d’etre for increased worker participation in corporate decision-making. It is typically associated with broad social objectives and seeks to extend democratic decision-making from the political sphere into the economic sphere through the elimination or restriction of the rights of the dominant industrial hierarchy.
Two distinct meanings of the term have emerged. The first is social participation, which derives from psychological studies and social techniques applied in group dynamics, and the second is workers' control which is a socialist ideology leading to the modification of the power structure in the enterprise.
In labour relations circles industrial democracy is concerned with "the opportunities afforded to labour to share in decisions concerning the process of production." Thus, it incorporates all levels of employee participation in managerial decision-making including collective bargaining, quality circles, autonomous work groups, works councils, and profit-sharing remuneration schemes.